Teaching violin to kids I nanny

Daisy Squires said: Jun 13, 2016
Daisy Squires
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
North Vancouver, BC
1 posts

I’m stuck in a bit of strange situation, and I’m hoping for some advice from more experienced teachers, or anyone who’s dealt with this kind of situation.

This summer I’ll be nannying 2 kids, 3 days per week for the next 3 months. One of the kids, a 7 year old girl, has been desperate to learn violin and the parents are interested in having me teach her. I’m a young teacher (19) but I’ve been teaching for 4 years and I have certification for books 1-3.

I’m unsure as to how her practicing time will go, seeing as I’ll be with her during the times a student would be doing home practices with a parent. Should I be involved in her practicing? Should I leave it until after her parents get home?

I’d like to make sure I do her proper lessons when her parents are home, outside the nannying time, but I feel a bit weird charging them even more on top of the nannying fee. Should I charge them my regular fee? Should I discount it? I’d like to still charge something, seeing as I’ll be taking the time to make a lesson plan for her.

Hopefully someones been in this situation before and has some good advice?

G said: Jun 14, 2016
G Ordun
Suzuki Association Member
Vienna, VA
21 posts


I have to recommend against becoming your student’s “practice parent”, even if only part of the time.

The parent needs to build their own teaching skills within the Triangle, at the same time they develop their family’s practice schedule and method. You doing it for them kinda defeats that purpose.

As for lesson charges, those would be your usual fee, as you would be off the nannying clock. The other child would not be your responsibility during lessons, right?

And since they are clearly planning to continue lessons after your nannying gig is up (right?) it’s simply too messy to “suddenly” begin charging for lessons.


Mengwei said: Jun 14, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

Assuming you didn’t negotiate “teaching violin” as a part of normal duties and assuming you have an organized teaching setup and could take her as a “regular” student on a separate day, I think that would be the cleanest way for boundaries. They should pay the regular tuition just as they are paying for caretaking. I would place practice responsibility on the parents because when you’re nannying, your job is to look after both children, not only what one is doing with the violin.

HOWEVER, were I in your shoes and the girl happened to be playing violin in my presence, I would probably not be able to resist offering praise and feedback, turning it into a teaching moment anyway! (I may be babysitting some of my students at my house this summer, and there is no way I could have students over and not be doing something musical with them at least part of the time.)

I would not want to teach her with a proper lesson structure while on nannying time because:
- Any legitimate need from the other sibling would rightfully interrupt the violin lesson
- Parent involvement is a critical element in the Suzuki triangle

Suppose they were doing an art or sports activity or something, then you would take them there and bring them home, and it would be different from doing crafts or throwing a ball around at home. You could play around with a violin at home, but it would be different from taking Suzuki seriously. If the family hasn’t stated what they’re looking for, you can offer your proposal and see what happens.

David Mitchell said: Jun 14, 2016
 Violin, Viola
Edmonton, AB
2 posts

Definitely charge full regular rate for the lessons, and lessons must be at a time that a parent is able to attend and you are not on duty as nanny; you are beginning a relationship that will last for years, you should start on the right foot.

Nanny duties: I have had students who have practiced full or part time with a nanny or had parents who share practicing duties, and it can be successful with lots of communication and cooperation. The question isn’t so much about you practicing with her, but whether there will be good, solid and consistent practice on the other 4 days a week… if the parents are really ready to invest time in her success, it should work, not knowing them, I’m a little concerned that may see this as a way to ‘do violin’ the easy way.

Practicing is tricky: I have taught my own children and juggling the roles of teacher and dad can be tough. A few tricks that have worked for me: I work really hard with my sons to keep the role of teacher and dad separate as much as possible. We have lessons in my teaching studio, and make a bit of a joke about the different hats I wear… sometimes as teacher I will give them a message to pass on to dad at supper or bedtime… they think its funny. My boys always practice in a separate space from lessons, to the point of having a second piano for practice (I teach them violin and piano).

For you keeping the hats straight may not be as crucial, as you will only be practicing with them for a defined period and not full-time, but definitely keep lessons distinct, professional, and with the parent present.

Good luck!

Rebecca said: Jun 14, 2016
 19 posts

Years ago I taught a student that I was a nanny for. I don’t know if this is the best way, but it was the way I did it and it seemed to work at that time.

On the days I wasn’t a nanny, I was a violin teacher. Students, including the one I would watch, would come to my home studio for their scheduled lesson. She was treated just like the other students and followed the same policies.

Her mother would supervise her practice after she got home from work and I was gone.

She paid me on a separate check when it was possible (and was happy to do so). I put all of my violin money in my violin business account, she knew I kept it separate, so there was nothing awkward about her writing out another check when she was in my home.

I didn’t teach her during nannying time for two main reasons. First, I charged more per hour for teaching than babysitting. Also, the separation of roles was easier.

After all that, I will admit that I did do something fun with the student when I was watching her and her siblings. We would get our violins out and just have play! It wasn’t practice or lesson, so we would play whatever we wanted, and yes, I would correct her if she slipped up.

Hope this helps!

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 15, 2016
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

Definitely charge your regular lesson rate, separate from the nanny rate, and treat them like any student that you’re not the nanny for—which is to say, you can’t schedule yourself to teach lessons for other children while you’re babysitting these children, so you shouldn’t schedule to teach lessons to these children while you’re babysitting them.

(When a nanny or babysitter brings a child to a lesson I teach, the parent pays me for my regular lesson rate, and I can only assume that the nanny or babysitter is getting paid their regular rate at the same time.

So, if for some reason you decided to give lessons during the time you’re being paid for watching the kids, you can and should charge for teaching the lesson (regular teaching rate) AND for watching the kids (nanny rate) for the same time period.)

Regarding practicing—does your nanny/babysitting rate include tutoring? If the children were taking suzuki lessons on different instruments that you don’t teach, would you take the children to their lessons, take notes, and practice with them at home, without raising your regular nanny/babysitting rate? Would you tutor them in homework for an academic summer class they happen to be taking?

If so, then it might be appropriate to throw in a supervised practice session or two during your regular babysitting/nanny hours. But you’d have to make it clear to the parents that they need to continue the practice sessions when your’e not there, … or hire another long-term nanny who would attend the child’s lessons and take over the practice supervisor role when you’re no longer the child’s nanny.

Meghan Coil said: Jun 17, 2016
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Portland, OR
16 posts

I had this scenario come up when I was nannying. I had recently moved and was not teaching violin to anyone else. This family’s interest became the catalyst for me to resume teaching. I explained that I would teach the lessons in their home at first, but when I got a few other students and a “real” teaching venue that I would expect them to transition to that venue, which they did and it worked for a while. You presumably already have a setup where you teach your other students, so I would strongly advise this family coming to you in your normal teaching space.
Those first lessons at my student’s house were not ideal. I couldn’t control the environment the way I like to in my teaching studio, and it was difficult to teach the student what “lesson behavior” was when, to him, it seemed like a continuation of nanny time. I also struggled to change my relationship with the parents—I needed to position myself as an authority and give direction to the people who had been my employers for so long…and again, I was in their home. Having the lesson in a space other than their home would have helped clarify roles for all involved. And while you should not be shy about charging your full rate, having them come to your normal teaching space makes that a moot point. More importantly, I think it makes them take you more seriously as a teacher.
I agree with other posters that the most important consideration for you, though, is to make sure that the parents understand that practice responsibility is theirs, even if they enjoy the convenience of having the lesson take place in their home thanks to their multitalented nanny/teacher. You don’t want to make it so convenient that they take you for granted.

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